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) Bullwhip.png
Name bullwhip
Appearance bullwhip
Damage vs. small 1d2
Damage vs. large 1
To-hit bonus +0
Weapon skill whip
Size one-handed
Base price 4 zm
Weight 20
Material leather

A bullwhip is a type of weapon that appears in NetHack. It is made of leather.


All Archeologists start with a +2 bullwhip.[1]

Balrogs are always generated with a bullwhip, and horned devils also have a 25% chance of being spawned with a bullwhip. In the balrog's case, the order of monster weapon preference means they will never wield it unless they somehow lose their guaranteed broadsword.[2]

Player monsters have a chance of receiving a bullwhip as a random melee weapon; archeologists have a 50% chance of their melee weapon being replaced with a bullwhip.[3]

Whip skill

Max Role

Both bullwhips and rubber hoses use the whip skill. There are no artifact whips.


Bullwhips are low-damage weapons that are ineffective against thick-skinned monsters. In addition to its use as a weapon, however, it can be applied to snap it in a direction and perform a number of special tricks:[4]

The success of these tricks does not depend on your actual skill with the whip. Instead, proficiency is based on your dexterity, whether you are an Archaeologist, and whether you are fumbling; whip tricks will always fail unless you are proficient. A character who is not an archaeologist must have a dexterity higher than 14 to be considered proficient.

NetHack makes the following assumptions to determine what to do when a whip is applied:

  • If you are in a pit, it is assumed that you are attempting to get out of the pit, unless you are applying the whip towards a small monster, in which case it is assumed that you are trying to attack it.
  • If you are not in a pit, and the monster is wielding a weapon, then you are attempting to disarm a monster.
  • If you are not in a pit and you apply the whip towards a monster without a wielded weapon, then you are attempting to hit the monster.
  • You cannot perform any tricks (besides attacking monsters) if you are confused or engulfed.


If applying a bullwhip at an enemy disarms them, the disarmed weapon may end up on the floor at the enemy's feet, on the floor at your feet, or in your inventory, depending on a 'proficiency' check. Disarming a pet does not reduce its tameness, but disarming a peaceful monster will anger it.

If the target is wielding a non-cursed weapon and you succeed, disarming does not break weaponless conduct. Trying to disarm non-pets can break the conduct because you always have a 10% chance of attacking instead, and you can decline only for pets.

Disarming is the only trick that whip-wielding monsters can use. It functions similarly to the same trick used by the player, with the following exceptions:[5]

  • An iron ball is too heavy to be disarmed.
  • A horned devil or other silver-hating monster will never use a whip to pull a silver item from the player's hands into its inventory; if one would, the item is dropped at the player's feet instead.

Picking up items

Applying a bullwhip down towards an item while you are riding a steed or levitating will pick it up off the floor or out of a pool if applicable. A cockatrice corpse will not petrify you when picked up in this manner.[6] When applying a whip downwards while riding your steed, there is always some chance (20-33%) that you will hit your steed instead.[7]

The following information pertains to an upcoming version (NetHack 3.7.0). If this version is now released, please verify that it is still accurate, then update the page to incorporate this information.

Previously, you could snag an item from the bottom of water or lava using a bullwhip. This is no longer possible, and applying a bullwhip toward lava can now burn or even destroy it.


Applying the whip to snap it at your steed will cause it to gallop, temporarily increasing its speed but reducing its tameness; this includes hitting your steed while trying to pick up an item off the floor.


Bullwhips are viable utility items, primarily sought after for their ability to pry desirable weapons out of the hands of a humanoid pet and/or forcing it to pick up and wield a different (usually better) weapon. While disarming thankfully does not constitute pet abuse, you will anger any peaceful monsters you disarm - using a bullwhip to grab the Minetown watch captain's silver saber is probably a Bad Idea if you expect to make off with it scot-free. Most monsters can wield bullwhips, but will prefer most other weapons over them, as indicated in the case of the balrog - though they will wield a whip over some weapons, such as quarterstaves and daggers.

Players looking to levitate frequently (e.g., Barbarians using The Heart of Ahriman) will also want to carry a bullwhip with them in order to reach items on the floor, as well as those retrieving loot or thrown weapons from moats - since this is reliant on dexterity rather than weapon skill, all roles can make use of this through varying amounts of stat exercise. Beware: snagging a wielded footrice corpse from a monster this way causes it to make contact with the character's hands, carrying the risk of stoning them (although picking up a footrice corpse from the ground does not).[8] Flight will not allow you to pick up items from moats this way unless you are also levitating.

Bullwhips can be used as an aid for riding players - in addition to increasing a steed's movement speed, all roles capable of advancing the whip skill can also advance the riding skill to basic. While the former can also be achieved by kicking your steed, rendering the bullwhip somewhat redundant, it is still useful for picking up items off the floor while unskilled if you encounter one early enough.


The bullwhip is introduced in NetHack 3.0.0.

In NetHack 3.4.3 and previous versions, including some variants based on those versions, the bullwhip is often used to reliably disarm a figurine Archon and obtain Demonbane - monsters generated by figurines still spawn with their normal starting inventory. The bullwhip was also involved in a few now-fixed bugs:

  • A player polymorphed into a xorn cannot pick up items in pits, and could not fall into them; the primary workaround was to obtain levitation and apply a bullwhip downward towards the pit in question. This was bug C343-16, and was fixed on January 27, 2004.
  • Sunsword would continue to remain lit if snatched out of a monster's hands with a bullwhip. This was bug C343-106, and was fixed on July 15, 2005.
  • Applying a bullwhip while stunned or confused and at an edge of the map may cause a panic or crash. This was bug C343-383, and fixed prior to the next version's release; the commits containing the fixes was pushed on February 23, 2009.[9][10]


The Archaeologist's starting bullwhip, along with the leather jacket and fedora, is one of the many trademark accessories of Indiana Jones, the star titular character of a franchise of movies made by George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Jones in turn is based on the heroes of 1930s pulp serials and inspired the Archaeologist role.


Why beat a dead horse?
You applied a bullwhip downwards while flying or levitating, on a square containing a horse corpse.



In SLASH'EM, an Archeologist wielding a bullwhip will not fall through trap doors; this does not require a dexterity check. Objects on the trap door might still be shoved through.[11] The Undead Slayer has a 25% chance of starting with a +2 bullwhip; this is derived from the Castlevania franchise, where the whip is frequently used by the Belmont clan.

Bullwhips tend to see more use in SLASH'EM - players with powerful humanoid pets will want to enchant that pet's weapon so that it can take on late-game foes that need enchanted weapons of a certain level to hit. Additionally, vampire characters will want a bullwhip and a source of levitation to retrieve items in moats or pits.


But thanks to your trusty whip ... You don't fall in.
A trap door opened under you, but you were an Archeologist wielding a bullwhip, preventing you from falling through.


In addition to SLASH'EM examples, SlashTHEM adds Liontamer, an artifact bullwhip acts as the first sacrifice gift for Zookeepers. Liontamer has +5 to-hit and +8 damage versus felines.


In UnNetHack, an archeologist corpse can sometimes be found under a boulder trap, and may be accompanied by the former adventurer's bullwhip. The Ruins of Moria branch always has an uncursed fireproof bullwhip, wielded by the unique balrog Durin's Bane.


dNetHack also features Durin's Bane, this time as the quest nemesis of the dwarven Noble; it generates with a cursed +9 bullwhip.

Encyclopedia entry

"Good," he said and, unbelievably, smiled at me, a smirk like
a round of rotted cheese. "What did your keeper use on you?
A bullwhip?"

[ Melusine, by Sarah Monette ]